Helena Cotterill

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Helena Cotterill

Quantum Materials Outreach Officer & Graduate Student

Hi, I'm Helena [she/they] and I am the Quantum Materials Outreach Officer based in the Condensed Matter Physics sub-department here in the Department of Physics. This means that I work with the Quantum Materials research group to help develop and support their efforts to engage the public with their work. I am also involved with the planning and delivery of hands-on workshops and lectures aimed at a variety of different audiences, including Primary School, GCSE, and A level students, and the general public.

I am also finishing up my graduate studies with the Stratosphere and Climate group based in the Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary Physics sub-department, supervised by Professor Lesley Gray. My research is focused on investigating the impact large tropical volcanic eruptions have on the climate, specifically the impact on the North Atlantic region, particularly the North Atlantic jet and the NAO via a possible connection through the stratosphere.

I graduated from Oxford University in 2016 after completing my MPhys (Master of Physics) degree, during the final year of which I specialised in Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary and Condensed Matter Physics, including a research project also supervised by Lesley Gray.

You can find me in room 107 in the Clarendon building half the week, and in room 113 in the AOPP (Dobson) building for the other half.

You can also find me on Twitter at @HelenaCotterill

For more information about Quantum Materials outreach, visit our website, or find us on Twitter and YouTube!

In addition to my role as Quantum Materials Outreach Officer, I have been actively involved with the Outreach team in the Physics department since I volunteered to help out with the department summer open days in July 2016. Since then, I have helped plan and run many events in the department and out in local Primary and Secondary schools, run interactive physics and problem solving workshops, and also given the occasional talk or two. See below for more details of the type of work I've been involved in, and feel free to drop me an email if you are interested in getting involved!

For more information about outreach in the department, click here.

Primary School Outreach

Working with Lena Shams, I have been involved in a number of projects aimed at bringing Physics to a younger audience and showing them how fun and exciting it can be, hopefully encouraging them to be engaged in science as they move through to Secondary school and beyond.

I have created several hands-on interactive workshops focusing on various topics on the Key Stage 2 Physics curriculum, including Light, Electromagnetism, and Forces. In addition to these, I have also delivered similar workshops focusing on Magnetism and Electricity. These workshops are ideal to be taken into schools and delivered to classrooms of students, can last anywhere from 20-60 minutes, and are designed to be as engaging as possible by including lots of fun experiments for the kids to do.

I have also been involved in the planning and running of the yearly 'Day as a Physics Undergraduate' event for the past few years here in the Physics Department aimed at Year 5 & 6 pupils. This is a full day here in the department aiming to give students a taste of university life, including lectures, experiments in real labs and college tours.

Isaac Physics & Secondary School Outreach

I have also assisted with and lead Isaac Physics problem solving classes as part of larger outreach events run by the department and university over the past few years. These classes are aimed at students from GCSE through to A level and are focused on improving their ability to tackle more challenging Physics and Maths problems similar to the sort you might find at university. I also co-lead a GCSE 'Physics Club' at a local Secondary school with Jenny Barnes last year focusing on both improving problem solving and expanding their knowledge and understanding of Physics beyond what is taught in the classroom.

I have also assisted with the running of the year 12 work experience week run each summer by the department, co-supervising projects, giving talks about my research and life at university, and running small informal tutorial-like subject taster sessions for students.

British Physics Olympiad

The British Physics Olympiad runs extracurricular competitions with papers aimed at GCSE, AS, and A2 level students, as well as an experimental project competition. In addition to helping to improve the student's problem solving skills and physics knowledge, high performing students in the A2 paper can progress through to a Round 2 paper and even onto the international team to represent the UK in the International Physics Olympiad.

Since 2016 I have been involved with the marking, checking and proof reading of the GCSE Physics Challenge and the Round 1 & Round 2 A2 papers, and have also assisted with the yearly awards ceremony held at the Royal Society in London.

You can find out more about the BPhO and all their competitions here.